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The ‘Great Wall’ of Holly Beach


Editor’s note: This guest post by Paul Conover from Lafayette was originally posted on LABird, a bulletin board for Louisiana birding enthusiasts. He was appalled to discover a coastal wall under construction in Cameron Parish. After reading this post you may agree with me that the curious CPRA logo (that I modified slightly below) now makes sense – if you like the idea of walling off the delta from the gulf.

Governor Jindal may see BP as the sugardaddy to fund a politically popular but hugely expensive and environmentally disastrous 'Great Wall of Louisiana' from Texas to Mississippi. Such a concept ignores delta science and would be the coup de grace for coastal Louisiana.

by Paul Conover

Part one

I went on a non-birding trip to Johnsons Bayou today (June 26). As we paralleled Holly Beach, I was surprised to see that a wall had been erected between the highway and the beach. The wall is constructed of cloth boxes about 3′ x 3′ wide x 4′ tall (estimate) that are interlocked.

The boxes are open at the top, and big machines are scraping up the sand of the beach and filling in the boxes. I saw miles of this wall.

Between Holly Beach and the Ferry landing, where the Gulf is only a few dozen yards south of the road, in some places the scrapers had scooped up all of the beach vegetation along with the sand. I’m sure that more than a few beach nesting birds contributed eggs or young to the contents of the boxes.

I saw some Corps of Engineers vehicles and some with NIPPON OIL logos. I also saw a Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries (LDWF) trailer, with ATVs checking out the scene.

Hesco baskets lining Holly Beach. Photo from The Leesville Daily Leader

I have no idea whose bright idea this is, but it’s a major Charlie Foxtrot. It seems like an idea a little kid in a big chair thought up with a box of crayons.

I don’t know what this wall is supposed to accomplish but I assume that it’s some politician’s way of ‘doing something.’ Maybe time will prove me wrong, but at this point I’m willing to say that whoever is behind this wall is a world class idiot.

Oh, yeah, and I would bet that it’s costing a ton. I don’t know what’s going on but I suspect that coastal experts were left out to avoid unpopular views that someone didn’t want to hear.

The stretch from Holly Beach to the ferry is being walled off, along with the marshes behind it. Gulf water overtops the road into the marsh to some extent during times of high south winds and to a major extent during tropical storm and hurricane surges.

Having seen camps, vehicles and even cement slabs tossed around like toys by Hurricanes Rita and Ike I have to wonder if the people who greenlighted this project know something miraculous about these green and beige sandboxes that have escaped my eye. Normandy isn’t the appropriate analogy here the Maginot Line is. This wall will do its job…until it has to!

I don’t know what entity is responsible for this ineffective, expensive and destructive project. When our state and federal administrations represent different parties, as during Katrina and now for “Spill, Baby, Spill,” Louisianans want to see the label before they’ll tell you whether they like something.

I remember an episode of Adam 12 where Reed and McCoy saved some hapless hippie’s life. The stoner wakes up telling them that firemen are the greatest. When the heroes inform him that they’re actually cops, not firemen, he angrily responds, “Fuzz. Lousy, stinkin’ fuzz.”

Someone on a recent KPLC-TV news broadcast said that the Holly Beach wall is better than what the feds have done. Just for fun, it would have been interesting to tell him that the wall is a federal project to see whether he would he have changed his tune to, “Feds. Lousy, stinkin’ feds,” or “What good is that stupid wall?”

Part two

In my earlier post (above) I wondered if our governor was involved in this project not for political axe-grinding but because of the presence of the National Guard. I have neither an ass nor an elephant in this race. I’m an Independent and I review issues on a case-by-case basis.

I don’t care which party makes a bonehead move. Every major player involved in this fiasco–federal, state, and most importantly, BP–has been less than honest and less than effective. Seeing the National Guard on the beach, I wondered whether the wall was a knee-jerk reaction to Governor Jindal having been caught assigning thumb-twiddling duty to 5,000 National Guardsmen assigned to clean up the spill.

If I’d seen Obama filling in the sand wall yesterday, I would’ve booed him. If I’d seen my own mom driving the earth-mover, I’d have given her hell, too. When someone does something stupid, don’t ask what party they belong to.

No matter who is behind this project, it is NOT better than doing nothing. It’s doing something so someone can claim credit, an eight mile long campaign poster.

Once the election is over, who will pick the poster up? Most importantly, if the ‘campaign poster’ is extended through Rutherford Beach, what will happen to the hundreds of Least Tern chicks, dozens of Wilson’s Plover chicks, Willet chicks, etc? Is it reasonable to wipe them all out to keep them from being wiped out?

Editor’s note: Another birding enthusiast forwarded this June 20 article by Marilyn Monroe in the Leesville Daily Leader that provides important information about the Great Wall of Holly Beach – without mentioning how (or if) the project is being coordinated by the Office of Coastal Protection and Restoration (OCPR).

Edited by Len Bahr, PhD (

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  1. There is noticeably big money to comprehend this. I suppose you have produced specific nice points in functions also.

  2. Terrific capturing feelings in these!

  3. Seems to me a lot of people are posting comments and writing articles without any of the facts.

    Every other sentence in the article is “I have no idea”!

    Well I have no idea if this is good or bad. It would be just as easy to speculate that the sand they are using even if it comes from the location of the wall will be retained better at the next storm and will prevent some erosion as well.

    Like I said I have no idea. And apparently nobody here does either. Just saying.

  4. This comment was just forwarded by an anonymous but knowledgeable ‘informant.:’

    FYI–HESCO units have been used along the Louisiana coast for many years as temporary storm surge protection units. The supporting frame of the basket basically allows material to be quickly stacked up in a narrower width–and provides additional protection against erosion. Consistent with effective design the units have been placed 2-3 deep and with proper foundation work to prevent undermining. Fran Campbell had a bunch installed on top of the East Jeff levee (I think back in 2004). Windell Curole has some in South Lafourche.

    The problem at Fourchon and Caminada is that they are only being slapped on top of the beach–one unit wide. The placement configuration is not properly designed. Perhaps there is some intent to reinforce the HESCO system with more units as time permits. Any experienced coastal engineer would recommend something more resilient than what they currently have–several engineers with the state are smart enough to recognize this–if they have even been asked!

  5. HeidiHoe says:

    More HESCO basket linkes:

    Gulf Oil Spill uses:

    Other uses (Scroll down a tad at this link):

    Sounds like HESCO baskets were invented in the “appropriate country:”

    Kind of like the origins of the group that brought us this mess……

  6. HeidiHoe says:

    Here is a link regarding HESCO baskets:

    Wonder if the Easter Bunny has heard of these????

    Might be good fer protectin eggs……

  7. HESCO baskets. I learned from Bayou Land RC+D that they were originally invented as bullet-resistant sandbags.

    There are some planted with Spartina in Chef Pass over by CERF as a trial restoration.

  8. Anonymous says:

    The sand is coming out of the Cheniers of Cameron Parish.

    • CoastGhost says:

      Oh, so since its the Cheniers, its OK?
      Come on, lets start making sense.

      • Anonymous says:

        It’s not ok at all, which is why I posted this info. I was hoping someone would pay atttention to the fact that they’re destroying vital natural hurricane protection to “protect” with the man-made Hesco baskets.

  9. Mike Robichaux says:

    Sand Berms, Maginot Lines, No coastal scientists involvement……Original plans GUARANTEED to to be destructive, WHAT’S UP??


    No bid contracts, Shaw Engineering .. Remember these guys after Katrina…Paid more for placing blue tarps on roofs than replacing all of roofing shinges would have cost….

    Pulitzer winning Times Picayune article on abuses following Katrina..

    There’s no mystery to Bobby’s plans….

    Follow the money!!!!!

  10. Anonymous says:

    The Holly Beach Hesco “wall” is similar to one also constructed at Fourchon. It will not withstand even a tropical storm surge–as it will be quickly washed out by a combination of 3-4 foot rise in MWL and 4+ ft waves. No one with a coastal engineering background designed or approved this fiasco as having any real purpose. Folllow the $$!!

  11. Anonymous says:

    At some point the press needs to look into the political connections of HESCO!

  12. Marty Floyd says:

    Was just told that the National Guard is trucking the sand in for filling the Hesco baskets. The new question is from where is that sand coming?

  13. Piers Chapman says:

    Given that no oil has so far made it past the eastern edge of Atchafalaya Bay, and is unlikely to even in a hurricane, this seems another ridiculous idea. How many millions of dollars did the state spend on pumping the sand to replace the beaches along this stretch of coast in the first place? As Marty says, are they going to replace things once the well is capped?If so, how much more will this cost?

  14. Marty Floyd says:

    They are using the sand that was placed on the beach as a CWPPRA project – pumped in from offshore. Are they planning on removing the Hesco baskets and replacing the sand as it was after the spill is cleaned up? What about the plantings that were done on the beach? I believe all the the work is being done by NG and they had to rent some of the equipment since theirs was too heavy.

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